When I moved to Canada, I remember thinking that it was just close enough to France in case of emergency or if I suffered a bad case of homesickness, yet far enough that I would be able to embrace a completely different culture. I couldn’t picture myself moving to Australia for instance, because it takes at least a couple of days and multiple expensive connecting flights to go to Europe. It simply felt too far, too remote.
From Ottawa, I can easily bus to Trudeau Airport in Montreal or Pearson in Toronto and catch a direct flight to Paris. It’s a six- or seven-hour flight, and dozens of airlines serve this route every day.
I can be there if needed. At least, I can try to.
And this time, I needed to be there.
A few weeks ago, my mother ended up at the ER—hardly the kind of news you want to hear when you live a few thousands kilometres away. I felt powerless. It’s an awful feeling, trust me.
In 2008, she had been diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm—one of these bad genetic jokes, because she didn’t have any of the “risk factors”. However, she was lucky to be diagnosed: aneurysms are a silent killer, usually striking people without warning. By a weird twist of fate, as her aneurysm enlarged, it caused pain—good news in her case.
At the time, the risk of rupture was weighted and surgery was not yet an option. She was sent home and told to practice “watchful wait”, i.e. to get a scan and a follow-up every year.
But the aneurysm grew bigger. Last February, she was in pain again, hence the trip to the ER. When she told me the diameter the aneurysm had reached, we all knew surgery had to be scheduled fast.
For a few weeks, I wasn’t sure whether I would have to rush to France, whether the surgery was going to be an emergency.
My mother was lucky was again: she didn’t have emergency surgery. She even got to pick the date (that’s the French health care system for you!), as long as it asap.
The surgery was last Friday and it went fine. Waiting for updates was a nerve-wrecking experience and I really felt I was on the other side of the world. I knew I’d only be relieved once in France—hence the unplanned trip. It was long overdue anyway: our last trip there was in June-July 2010.
Feng stayed in Ottawa and I “crossed the Pond” alone.
From Ottawa, I took the Greyhound to Montreal’s Trudeau Airport, and then flew to Amsterdam. It was my first time flying KLM and arriving at Schiphol Airport and both were good experiences (although I wouldn’t claim Dutch is the most melodious language…!). From Amsterdam, I flew to Nantes, my hometown. The weather was gorgeous in Ottawa and fairly nice in Amsterdam but it was cold and damp when I arrived “home”.
Yet I’m here for a few weeks. A French spring, in a way… and an unplanned trip starting on my birthday: I turned 29 today.